Chronic illness stole my life.
It almost destroyed me.
Until I figured out how to redefine myself and accepted that I am no longer the woman I was before I got sick.
I mean, I was a legal secretary, making good money. We had a cute little house, a white picket fence and rose bushes (literally), benefits, food and daycare for Daughter, who was a toddler at the time. My job was stressful, but I felt like I was able to touch lives and make an impact for the better in the world.
The change wasn't overnight. I started having trouble sleeping, because the long bones in my body hurt all night. I was having anxiety attacks that were followed closely by migraines. Daily.
I ended up having to leave the job I loved. It took me 3 months of calling in sick almost every day to finally make the decision to leave. Over the course of the next year, we lost virtually everything, except each other.
It took me almost a year to finally accept the fact that I couldn't just bounce back this time. And when the diagnoses finally started rolling in, I was devastated. I read everything I could on what was going on with me. I tried hard to have a positive attitude (it might make life miserable, but it won't kill me). But I was still super depressed, because all the things that had defined me were gone. What was I now? What would I be when Daughter was grown and out of the house?
I refused to settle for being a couch potato.
But it took me a few more years before I finally started to figure it all out.
It took years for it to sink in that I could choose how I wanted to define this "new" me. If you're struggling to figure out who you are, because of some major life event, you can use this, too. (Even if you aren't chronically ill. Major life events like divorce, the death of a spouse or child, sudden loss of income - those all make for moments when you might have to rethink who you are.)
- Think about what makes you tick. What books do you enjoy reading? What websites do you frequent? What are you still good at? (I love to crochet, but developed a contact allergy to most of the yarns I used to use - thus, my cotton tote bags were born) We're often conditioned to define ourselves by who we're married to, whether or not we have children, and what we do for a living. What happens when 1/3 of that equation (your career) is taken away? You are more than the sum of your parts - you just need to figure out what those parts are, and how they all fit together.
- Think about what you really want in life? Are you hell-bent on being rich? Do you want to help others? Are you happiest when doing community service?
- Think about what you CAN do. Be realistic, without overly limiting yourself. Can you learn some new skills? Can you tolerate working at the computer a few hours a day? Can you stand a few hours at a time?
- Start thinking outside the box. Google is a wonderful thing. As is Twitter and Instagram. Even if you're on a limited budget, you can start something huge (start small, and build it, rather... don't try to do HUGE things all at once - been there, done that, have the bruises and fatigue to show for it). Be willing to look outside of your limited perspective, learn something new, and dive into developing something you might have never noticed, had your life not changed dramatically.
- Pick ONE thing - and go for it. Don't make my mistake - When I decided to redefine who I was and what impact I wanted to have in the world, I fell in love with a hundred ideas, and tried to implement them all at once. Even healthy, I could never have tackled that much, and my body and mind rebelled in the worst ways. You might have noticed from my blog posts that I've had to restructure what I do; more than once, in fact. I'm okay with that, but don't make my mistakes.
There are literally hundreds of ways to get involved and make money, without leaving your home. Avoid the get-rich-quick schemes. Be prepared to do SOME work. Do your homework. If you need to learn new skills, there are TONS of free courses out there. If you'd like access to thousands of free courses on Skillshare, you can grab a free trial of Premium membership. Just click the image below. [I'm a Skillshare ambassador/affiliate, and a teacher there, so I get a small commission for each person that signs up. I appreciate and thank you for your support.]
I've narrowed down my field of impact to writing, chronic pain support and books (I own a bookstore, and read/review books, as well as support indie authors). That's an incredibly short list compared to two years ago.
These steps should get you started on the road to finding a new you. Keep in mind that it's just a start. You will fall down (it's part of the process - how I wish it weren't!), and you have to choose to get back up. Be gentle with yourself and rest when you need to.